Spellbound in Silent Solitude

The ice age shaped Schaalsee stretches along the former inner-German border between Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. With a length of 14 km (8.7 miles) and a width of up to 5.4 km (3.4 miles), it is one of the deepest lakes in northern Germany with a depth of -78 m (256 feet). This deep pothole is located between Seedorf and Groß Zecher and was formed by a waterfall in the ice-age terrain. On average, however, the bay-rich lake reaches a depth of only -17 m (-56 feet).

When the last ice age, called Weichsel glaciation, ended here about 12.000 years ago, the ice and meltwaters left behind a chain of lakes stretching between Lübeck and the Elbe River. In the process, the water streams broke through numerous terminal moraines and carved out a deep channel system that today contains the many of the region’s lakes. These original drainage channels already developed under the inland ice cap and were extensively reshaped by the retreating ice.

The former moraine slopes, which formed the highest elevations of the ice-age landscape, are still preserved today and create the typical hilly landscape of the forested Schaalsee area. Where these moraines rise steeply out of the water, peninsulas formed, which are called Werder. This is the reason why the Schaalsee is so rich in bays. Where dead ice blocks broke off from the inland ice and remained in place, depressions with steep slopes developed due to the very slow thawing of these ice masses. Today, this relief characterizes the landscape of the Schaalsee with its steep cliffs up to 25 m (82 feet) high. Sediments and terrain elevation steps of up to 45 m (148 feet) indicate that the lake had a significantly higher water level after the end of the ice age than it does today and was thus considerably larger. The Schaalsee is fed mainly by springs at the bottom of the lake and to a lesser extent by smaller streams in the surrounding area.

The numerous rocks and large boulders brought here by the glaciers of the inland ice and the meltwater streams can be found everywhere in the Schaalsee area. Thus, the name of the lake is also derived from the old Slavic word scala, meaning stone. These rocks transported by the ice to northern Germany show the wide range of the composition of the Scandinavian bedrock. This bedrock consists of the deep roots of these former mountains. Once deeply buried in the earth’s crust, it explains their enormous age of about 1500 million years. Therefore, most of the rocks found at Schaalsee are either ancient granites or their variants, the gneisses, which have been strongly altered by pressure and heat in the earth’s interior. However, there are also numerous volcanic rocks, which are not only indicative of the formation of these former mountains, but are also relics of the oceans that once lay between these landmasses.

Generally unpopular, April weather is in high favor with me.

These capricious weather situations arise due to the particularly strong temperature contrasts between the already warming southern parts of Europe and the still wintery cold north. Wind and weather are always a consequence of these temperature contrasts. Consequently, the greater the differences in pressure and temperature between north and south, but also between ocean and land, the crazier the weather becomes. This is because the land warms up much faster than the oceans. On the other hand, the oceans have a longer memory for the heat they absorb than the fast-moving atmosphere. The heat stored in the oceans in summer is thus released back into the atmosphere with a time lag, which mitigates the effect of the seasons. However, this also causes the oceans in our latitudes to be coldest in spring, while the land quickly heats up to early summer temperatures in cloud-free conditions.

The result is April weather with its rapid alternation between sunshine and showers, often accompanied by thunderstorms and sleet. Especially in the lowlands, such weather conditions offer ideal photo conditions, because the inevitable large amount of sky dramatically enlivens the scenery. For ideal light, the time around sunrise and sunset is particularly favorable. However, it also significantly limits the photographic opportunities because it is very difficult to match the chaotic April weather to the right place at the right time. Therefore, such shots require both perseverance and planning, as well as a lot of luck.

That is how it was in this case as well. The Schaalsee offered the ideal scenery and the April weather provided a rapid succession of sunshine with thunderstorms and sleet showers. To capture the vastness of this landscape, I decided to shoot a 180° panorama showing the lake from sunset in the west across the south to the eastern horizon on the left edge of the image. It was great luck that exactly at sunset such a thunderstorm passed through and created this unique light and cloudy atmosphere. While the surroundings of the lake were still white from the sleet, the intense blue-gray of the gloomy clouds reflected in the wavy lake, and the departing thunderstorm cast a spell on the scene.

Germany Gallery » Spellbound in Silent Solitude